Critical Analysis of “Toome Road” | Poem by Seamus Heaney

Critical Analysis of “Toome Road” Poem by Seamus Heaney

It is always said that Seamus Heaney sketches theme of fear in his poems. In fact, it is his favourite theme. He belongs to Ireland and is well aware with its past. Indeed, his past is fearful. His people suffered. They sacrificed their lives for their fellowmen. It is possible that Seamus Heaney knows the impact of war too. He identifies fear on the faces of people and illustrates them through his poems. Undoubtedly, he is a talented poet and can convey any message. Further, he has the ability to convert emotions into words. “Toome Road” is a poem of Seamus Heaney in which he does critical analysis of war and fear and vividly illustrate them. He illustrates fear and impact of war on people living in countryside.

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Critical Analysis of Toome Road:

“Toom Road” shares theme of fear as demonstrated in “A Constable Calls”, therefore, that poem should also be kept in mind while reading this poem. He shows a fearful countryside life in both the poems. Although very less pastoral images have been depicted in “Toome Road” yet it shows the superiority of peaceful pastoral life over war.  The poet narrates condition of people and fear that is in their minds at the time when they see army marching on the roads possessing tanks and weapons.

Stanza-I Critical Analysis of “Toome Road”:

The poet, in first stanza, creates vivid imagery of army. It seems that army is exhibiting its powers through armoured cards and infantry. This type of imagery has also been created by Philip Larkin in his poem “MCMXIV” but in this poem, situation is entirely different. There is a negative impact of army in it, whereas in “MCMXIV”, positive and enthusiastic attitude of army has been shown. In early morning, possibly, the poet came out of his home and saw armoured cars on the road. He also saw soldiers, having guns and headphones in their ears. It seems that they are ready for battle. They are expecting war. We know that in world war and even after it, every country strengthened his army. The poem reveals postwar condition of a country. We can feel fear in every word of poem. Intention of army is not clear, however, it does not seem that it came here for the purpose of defending the country.

Stanza-II Critical Analysis of “Toome Road”:

Second stanza is entirely opposite to the first one. “How long were they approaching down my roads”. This line shows sheer anger of the poet. “my roads” actually refers “my people”. It symbolizes that the poet cares for his people. He considers that army is creating fear in their minds. Soldiers are marching on the road “As if they owned them?”. It is morning time and everyone is sleeping in their homes; they are taking a peaceful nap but the army is ruining it. The poet explains the condition of his town. He has “rights-of-way, fields, cattle in my keeping” but the soldiers are direct threat to his town. They are ruining the beautiful pastoral life of countryside. Soldiers are less defensive but more hostile.

The poet shows his anger and wants help. He is not talking about any specific nation but about the welfare of whole humanity as he is lover of peace.  He is not happy on the arrival of army. Whenever he sees it his mind is filled with the memories of world war. War brings sufferings with it. Life of people becomes miserable in days of war. Heaney’s mind is in terrible condition. He imagines dreadful condition of people, therefore, wants peace everywhere.

War does not differentiate between good and bad. Indeed, people suffered too much in first and second world wars. Armoured cars and soldiers are symbols of defense but for Heaney they are enemies of peace. He cannot tolerate their attitude. He shows hatred for them in this poem. He is worried and confused, therefore, does not know “Whom Should I [he] run to tell”. Arrival of soldiers is bad news for everyone. Perhaps, the poet does not want to become source of this bad news for his people, therefore, he does not warn anyone. Nevertheless, the convoy just passes through.

Stanza-III Critical Analysis of “Toome Road”:

Last stanza is about the rural life. There are “sowers of seeders, erectors of headstones… charioteers” in the country side, who “stands here [there] still, stands vibrant as you [army] pass[es]”. This stanza reveals the pastoral life, which is in danger because of the soldiers. Heaney is against war. People are helpless in front of foreign invasion. They are afraid, therefore, they have locked themselves in their houses. Although the army has disturbed the peace yet end of the poem is quite positive. “The visible, untoppled omphalos”. These lines demonstrate the boldness of poet and his people.

Entire poem shows direct resistance to war. Seamus Heaney did not like it nor did he like the foreign invasion in his country. It also reveals the consciousness of poet. Fear has damaged his consciousness. It has also occupied sense of the poet. Heaney cares for his country and for his people. There is a strange fear in his mind. It is not easy for him to overpower it. This poem illustrates his fear especially, the fear of world war.

The poet states an incident; he witnesses foreign soldiers marching on the roads in a state of battle. Army creates fears in the minds of people, therefore, they fee insecure. This poem is reaction to the action of army. Poet shows his anger while considering his supreme duty to show revolt. It is a protest against foreign invasion. Heaney dares to speak against it. Being a poet, he considers his duty to protest and speak against this cruelty. He does not like unkind attitude of army. He prefers peace, therefore, wants it for the welfare of humanity.

Related Questions:

  • Write Critical Analysis of “Toome Road” by Seamus Heaney.
  • “Toome Road” shows a state of fear. Elaborate with critical analysis of “Toome Road”.